What is Social Music and Why Does it Matter?

Trends
Felim McGrath / April 05, 2017

2016 was the year that video became ubiquitous within the social space. The boom in video on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, and well as the rise in live video streaming has made this medium a key aspect of most social services today. So what media will social services engulf in 2017?

Facebook has been slowly leaning into the world of music for some time now but the recent announcement that they had lured Tamara Hrivnak, former director of music partnerships at YouTube, to Menlo Park was a clear indication that they, and perhaps many other social platforms, will be taking music seriously in 2017.

The Role of Music in Social Media

Of course, music has played an important role in social networking since the days of Myspace and, in many ways, services like Facebook are already part of the music business. Success in drawing artists and bands to create pages or profiles and interact with fans has made social media a key part of any music label’s strategy. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing – Facebook’s Music Stories launched in 2015 failed to gain widespread interest, while Twitter’s #Music service was shuttered in 2014. However, Facebook et al. have in many ways forced their own hand here.

By aggressively expanding their video offerings, these networks, like YouTube before them, have had to contend with music rights owners protesting that their content is freely available on the platforms.

One of Tamara Hrivnak’s key roles at Facebook will surely be to sign licensing deals to cover user-uploaded music videos.

Of course, as many platforms have discovered, navigating the sea of contracts and agreements necessary to provide a rich music streaming library is not easy. Facebook’s deep pockets, as well as the massive reach that it can promise artists and music labels, obviously stand it in good stead here. Facebook should be welcoming this process as there is plenty of reason to think that Facebookers could take enthusiastically to any music offering that the network launches.

Our research shows that it’s already 65% of Facebookers who are using music-streaming services in some form and that this group is now more likely to say that they prefer to stream music online, rather than to own it themselves.

The Future of Social Music

Surely, adding another revenue stream will be attractive to Zuckerberg & Co., though how exactly they can achieve this will be an interesting one to watch. So far, Facebookers have been quite reticent about paying for content directly via the platform. Yet Facebook’s traditional revenue model – providing services/content in exchange for data and advertising exposure – is one that music labels are becoming increasingly frustrated with. Apple Music and Tidal have touted the ‘premium-only’ model as the future of music streaming, while Spotify has felt the heat for steadfastly defending its ad-supported offering.

Facebook’s laser-focus on user growth and engagement means that it will surely push for freely accessible music for its users, particularly as our research shows that only 16% of Facebookers say they currently pay a monthly subscription for a music-streaming service.

Facebook’s biggest challenge, and one that any social platform attempting to enter the music streaming world will have to contend with, is how to solve the puzzle of ‘social music’. While some music lovers flock to concerts and enthuse to their friends about their favorite band, not everyone wants to broadcast their listening habits to their social contacts. As is their nature, social platforms will undoubtedly put sharing and commenting at the heart of whatever music offering they produce, but getting the right blend of privacy settings is essential.

As with the evolution of video and commerce options on social platforms, this new interest in music highlights social media’s evolution from simple communication networks to service and content platforms.

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